MLB teams have spent the last couple of weeks reinforcing their health and safety protocols, and as the Giants embarked on this three-city trip, they made some changes, including to the types of masks that some members of the traveling party were wearing on flights.
Every move is made with safety in mind, but on the field, it can still be hard to remember the backdrop of this season. That was the case Sunday, when A's outfielder Ramón Laureano charged the Astros dugout after hitting coach Alex Cintron reportedly made a vile comment about his mother. The ensuing fracas was a nightmare image for the league in an age of social distancing. Laureano is expected to get suspended, and Cintron could face a lengthy suspension for taunting a player into the incident.
A day later, as Gabe Kapler prepared for his turn with the Astros, the manager said the brawl was used by the Giants as a kickstart for another discussion about being responsible. He spoke to his large coaching staff Monday.
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"I think it's a reminder to be especially aware and sensitive that right now everybody has their stress levels at their highest, because not only are we combining the stress of a major league baseball season and a modified shortened sprint as it is, but we're also doing it under conditions that we've never seen before," Kapler said. "Just the awareness that we're probably already a little bit emotionally charged will help us stay cool under conditions that would normally force us to move out onto the field.
"I think most of this is about just a heightened level of sensitivity and awareness that we're already pretty stressed out, and leading with a little bit of empathy and understanding, I think that'll put us in a good spot."
The Giants have already played seven games against the Dodgers without incident and shouldn't have any issues with the Astros. Aside from president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, the former Dodgers GM, they don't have anyone who could have a real beef with the sign-stealing scandal that was the biggest story of this past offseason.
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Some players have said it's extremely easy to hear conversations and expletives in these games being played without fans. The Astros have already had benches-clearing incidents with the Dodgers and A's, but Kapler said he hadn't heard anything thus far that stood out too much.
"I've seen less jawing with the other team than I would normally see," he said. "There's kind of the same level of interaction with umpires that we've seen in the past. I think one thing that we've been considering is what's the best strategy there, since it's so easy to hear what we're saying to the umpire and to each other in the dugout. Sometimes it has to do with just kind of dialing our voices down a little bit."